I came to the mountains one weekend with Ted Stern to see what I might be getting myself into. He took me to see Tom. On the way there I saw a little old house beside the road that had something of a golden glow about it. It brought to mind a house I'd seen about 12 years before in some mill town in Virginia toward the mountains. I was riding with a couple guys from a Navy Reserve 2-week program in Bainbridge, Maryland, on one thing and another, none of it of any interest to me. The driver was on his way to Atlanta. The other guy lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, and talked with the Southern accent particular to that location, saying hoose for house. It was beautiful. And new to me. I rode as far as Charlotte and took a plane from there to Charleston.
Somewhere about an hour or two before Lynchburg, we went off the main highway to some little town where the driver's grandmother lived. He'd not seen her in a few years. She had a table full of food waiting for her grandbaby and his 2 friends who paid for his gas. As we were driving to grandma's, it was surely an old mill town, with a lot of small houses close to each other like in a city, old houses. One that was covered in tarpaper with a brick pattern pressed into it and brown grit. The street had an L turn to the lift in it. At the end of the street I saw this house and it had what I could only describe as a golden glow about it. We approached it and I was looking at it wondering why it was so familiar. I'd never been there, never been in Virginia, yet it was almost familiar as home. The L turn in the street happened in front of the house and we went away from it to the left and I looked at it through the back window until it was out of sight. When we left grandma's, which was bowls of beans and every kind of country cooking grandma had prepared for her darling, telling us to eat it all, we were back on the road. I watched the house again when we went by it the other direction until it was out of sight. Something about it called to me.
After that first visit with Tom I never saw that house by the side of the road with the golden glow. I believed it was on the road to Sparta that went through Whitehead, but never saw it again, suspecting I'd not been looking when we passed it. Some time later, in June when poplars were flowering, the caretaker's cabin was ready, but I couldn't move in until the first of the year. I went to the mountains to see what I might be living in. No closets. No bathroom. No kitchen. No attic. No basement. No garage. The creek running beside the house was the only running water.
Just 5 rooms in a 20x30 foot space. It had been the Air Bellows schoolhouse where Tom went to school. It had been moved about 200 yards up the road from its former place by the gate of the Willis farm next door, originally the Jim Scott place. A couple of apple trees mark the schoolhouse place behind the loading pen where cattle were loaded into trailers to go to market.
For years I believed the sighting of the house in Virginia a dozen years before was something of a future memory, like the subconscious knew the future. I couldn't find a way to explain it, but the two seemed awfuly connected. It felt like Destiny and there was no other way to look at it. I moved into the house the first of January and started building shelves, and using the outhouse. It was the worse outhouse ever made. Situated between two creeks, it consisted of an above ground cement round box like about a 5 gallon bucket under the hole. When it was full it needed cleaning out by shovel. I hated that, but wrote it off as a lesson in humility. It was a year before the house got a bathroom. At the time, I as enchanted to have an outhouse. So authentic. Like visiting country relatives.
Three years ago I learned genealogy through grandfather and grandmother Worthington. I wanted to go to Perry to meet extended family both sides. While there, a cousin Eldon Worthington drove me around and showed me a big lake, part of which was once my great grandfather's farm. Another cousin, Gary Ellis from my grandmother's side of the family, took me around too. He showed me the house my great grandparents by my grandmother lived in, where my grandmother grew up. It was fairly well along in its entropy, vines growing all over it, walls leaning, windows and doors gone. I got out of the truck and took a picture of the remains, glad it hadn't been torn down.
Upon arriving home, looking at the pictures on the computer, I saw something I hadn't noticed at the time of taking the picture, the old siding on the house was just like mine. The house was about the same size as mine, maybe smaller. At the site itself I was more invovled seeing the vines than the siding. My great grandmother Worthington, Dora Hale from Bledsoe County, Tennessee, died when I was 10. I remember visiting her ages 5, 6 & 7. My parents had little interest in knowing other people, so I never got to know extended family after age 7. I can't recall her face, but definitely recall her presence. That's all I have of her. She lived at Perry. The family farm she and her husband and kids worked is the one now on the bottom of the big lake.
My grandmother Worthington, ne Dick, grew up in the house like mine. I don't know who was living in it when I knew it, maybe one of her older sisters. Her mother died when she was a year and a half. Whoever it was there, I do remember being there with my grandmother and mother and dad. This was my grandmother's homeplace. I'd been there enough that I had happy associations with the place. When I saw the house on the computer monitor, I knew what was where the golden glow came from around the house in Virginia. It wasn't hocus pocus. It was a forgotten memory down in the subconscious. My parachute had landed me in my great grandparents' house from my own early childhood.